Halo 2 is one of those rare video games that garnishes attention from regular folk who wouldn't know which direction to point a game controller. With more than 1.5 million pre-orders and a massive release party in Times Square, the game enjoys the sort of buzz, and sales, generally
reserved for boy wizards. But does it merit the

Opening Scene :

Halo 2 opens with a cut scene in the Covenant Holy City of High Charity. Much has happened since Master Chief (that's you) created so much havoc for the Covenant in the first Halo, and the Arbiter has much atoning to do for his failures. This first cut scene is long, but the lush graphics, orchestral sound, and polished voice talent for both this and other cut scenes as well as the game itself put most animated television shows to shame.

On Your Own

The most significant change in the single-player game is with Master Chief's much-touted defensive suit. At the beginning of the game, he is told that the suit has been upgraded, but it's really undergone a severe downgrade. In Halo 2, the player has only one life

line. Unlike in the first game, there is basically no defensive shield on the suit, making gameplay tougher. It can often take multiple--sometimes a maddening number--attempts to make it through thorny parts of the game.

Or with a Friend

Finally, no review of a Halo game is complete without mentioning multiplayer. One of the main reasons to buy Halo 2 is the ability to play through Xbox Live, a feature not included in the first game, which was among the original releases for the Xbox. Multiplayer for Halo 2 uses all of the same weapons and vehicles as in the single-player game, and the types of games available in Halo (King of the Hill, Slayer, Capture

the Flag) return with a host of new maps. Multiplayer Halo 2 offers customizable profiles, control layout, and screens as well as a voice proximity feature, where you can talk with other players via an Xbox Communicator so that those closer to you sound louder than those farther away. Players can also create

both permanent clans and temporary parties in the Xbox Live world. Undoubtedly, this multiplayer feature alone ensures that Halo 2 will remain a top-selling game for years to come.